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Uzbek President Islam Karimov
International organizations today urged Uzbek President Islam Karimov to release all human rights activists from jail.

The plea was made to Karimov on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service today that her organization and Human Rights Watch had sent a letter to the Uzbek president, asking him and his government to honor the declaration's anniversary by making it an occasion to unconditionally release Uzbek human rights activists.

The organizations say the release of the rights defenders would show Karimov's commitment to the rights declaration.

Human rights organizations say that large numbers of activists are being held in Uzbek prisons for their peaceful activities.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
ASHGABAT -- Prominent Turkmen civil rights activist Valeri Pal has been released from prison.

Pal was released after Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov signed a decree granting amnesty to him on the eve of Neutrality Day, usually marked in Turkmenistan on December 12.

Pal is a computer engineer who assisted Turkmen rights activists in using Internet technology to distribute information from Turkmenistan around the world.

He was detained in February and found guilty of embezzlement three months later. Pal was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

More people are expected to be released due to the presidential decree.

Farid Tukhbatulin, chairman of the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, a Turkmen group working in exile in Europe, was quoted by Reuters as saying Pal "is seriously ill, but at least he is at home now."

The nature of Pal's illness is not clear.

Pal's release comes ahead of December 14 parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan, a one-party state that tolerates no dissent but which says the vote will highlight its commitment to democratic reform.

(with Reuters)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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